7x7x3/4" steel plate
10' of 3/4" square steel tubing
5 colors of el wire, each color is a single strand approximately 8ft, each color forms a "band" of parallel strands, 10 strands wide, each strand is 2.2mm thick
EL Wire splitter 5-output
12 VDC EL Wire inverter capable of lighting 27-40 ft
12 VDC Wall transformer
More than you're likely to have lying around the house. I do all my work at TechShop in San Francisco
manual mill/cnc tormach
drill & tap
Step 1: 3D Model
Step 2: Facing and Milling
Then I hollowed out a pocket in the bottom of the plate using a CNC tormach, cause I was tired of milling manually :) . I left raised corners in the pocket, recessed from the bottom surface of the cube just enough to rest an acrylic plate on the corners and have it sit flush with the bottom of the cube. Then I drilled and tapped holes in the raised corners so that I could later screw the acrylic plate into place. That plate will end up holding all the wiring in the pocket.
(Note: a similar resulting shape could probably be achieved by welding a thin steel plate onto a welded square made from the tubing, but I'm not a very experienced welder and I optimized design for the cleanest looking cube.)
Step 3: Cutting Posts
Then I milled the channels for the EL wire to run through. These are cut according the the 3D model. Make sure that the channel "teeth" are facing the direction that the EL wire will be pulled in. Also drill the holes in the cube base according to the 3D model.
Step 4: Welding Cube
Next I tack welded the top square together. It may have been a better idea to add the top bars one at a time to the top of the posts, but as I've mentioned, I haven't welded very much so this is just the order I went in. If you don’t properly clamp everything to the welding surface you’ll warp your bars and ruin all the hard work you put into cutting/grinding the bars to be the proper length. When I was done tack welding my square, it rocked instead of laying flat on a table. :(
Next I positioned my square on top of the posts and clamped every piece I possibly could. At this point I had to leave some clamps loose, try to knock the posts straight with a mallet, then tighten the clamps when all the pieces seemed to line up in a reasonably square fashion. Tack weld the square to the posts.
When everything is tack welded and reasonably cube shaped, go ahead and fully weld all the joints. I only welded the outer joints so I wouldn’t need to grind down messy inner joint welds with a dremel. There shouldn’t be more than a crack between any posts on the inner joints, and once the cube is powder coated, they’re barely visible, and only from very strange viewing angles.
Next I used an angel grinder to smooth out the welds and round out the corners, since the square tubing had rounded edges.
Step 5: Soldering EL Wire
I followed this tutorial to solder connectors to my EL wire. As in the article, I originally ordered all my wire and supplies from thatscoolwire.com. I was reasonably pleased with everything that they sent, but it’s hard to get a good sense of how the colors will look when lit from online pictures, and 1 of the colors that I ordered (the purple) glowed much dimmer than the rest. I ended up taking my other 4 colors to Fun House Productions in West Oakland and they lit a couple different colors until I found one that matched mine in brightness and looked good with my existing colors. I ended up returning to them later to buy extra connectors, a power cord extension, and a toggle switch.
The toggle switch will need to be connected to the length of wire between the power source and the inverter. If you were to connect it to the length of wire between the inverter and the EL Wire, when you turned the switch off you would blow your inverter. (For this same reason you should never plug your power source into your inverter when you don’t have the EL wire also connected to the inverter).
Step 6: Stringing EL Wire
Note: EL Wire is reasonably delicate, so don’t try to yank the wire taut through sharp channels. If you strip the outer lining of the wire you will short the entire circuit. At this and later points in the assembly I managed to strip or kink my wire and short the entire circuit about 4 times. I had to unstring the wire, sometimes a bit of electrical tape around the stripped area was sufficient, other times I had to cut off the damaged length of wire and start the stringing process again.
Step 7: Shimming EL Wire
Step 8: Acrylic Plate
Next I cut a clear acrylic plate on a laser cutter to fit the pocket in the base of the cube, with holes for the corner screws, a hole in the center for the power cord, and with my signature etched into it. I bundled all the wires into the pocket in the base of the cube and screwed the acrylic plate into place to hold them in place.